The threat of the Zika virus was escalated again by the United States Centers for Disease Control. This time, the agency commonly referred to as the CDC issued a travel advisory for pregnant women visiting or planning a visit to Southeast Asia. Nearly 350 cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the region, with 33 of those in pregnant women.
A report by the CDC initiated a new travel warning for 11 countries, including Brunei, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), and Vietnam.
“Travelers have returned from certain areas of Southeast Asia with Zika virus infection,” the agency stated on its website.
In an interview with CNBC, the Atmosphere Research Group’s founder, Henry Harteveldt, claimed this threat has the potential to cause a decline in travel to Southeast Asia just before the peak holiday travel season, but the impact may not be as severe as some would presume.
“Some of these destinations are very popular for students and younger adults in their 20s or 30s looking for vacations, whether it’s a backpacking tour or surfing or swimming. This could have a noticeable impact on inbound tourism and (cause) some economic damage. When the U.S. CDC issues an alert, just like when the U.S. State Department issues an advisory, it’s taken very seriously across the travel industry. It may prompt the CDC’s counterparts (in other countries) to take a look and issue their own warnings. These are not the top-tier vacation destinations that a lot of people go to. They’re still ‘bucket-list’ destinations. It’s not like the CDC just issued a warning saying, don’t go to England.”
While this “travel notice” by the CDC is far from those issued for the areas of Brazil and Singapore, travelers should still take caution. The agency took time on its website to explain the differences — discussing the difference between the travel alert for Zika “epidemic” in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the travel consideration for the “endemic” in parts of Southeast Asia.
In addition to noting the travel advisory, the CDC also issued a report changing its guidelines for men. The center cautioned males that want to conceive, but have recently visited an area known to have an active Zika outbreak to wait a minimum of six months from their last potential exposure. The agency originally called for an eight-week waiting period whether or not symptoms were present.
The Zika virus, a disease primarily spread by mosquitoes, was first found in 2015 in Brazil. Further research has discovered it is also able to be transmitted sexually. Because of advanced spread of the global virus, the CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid nearly 60 countries and territories.
The CDC website officially states the following.
“Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes severe birth defects, including microcephaly and severe fetal brain abnormalities. Therefore, pregnant women should talk with their healthcare provider and consider postponing nonessential travel to Southeast Asia. Zika virus testing should be offered to pregnant women and considered for other people who have symptoms of Zika virus disease if they have recently traveled to Southeast Asia.”
Infants that have been exposed to the Zika virus in-utero may have small heads and experience developmental disabilities. Some have also been found to have brain abnormalities and joint malformation, according to the Huffington Post.
At this time, there is no cure or vaccine for the Zika virus and agencies like the CDC are working to help individuals prevent onset by taking precautionary measures, including travel restrictions. Treatment for the condition includes rest, rehydration, and the use of medications to reduce fever and pain. For more information on the virus, contact your local CDC or medical professional.
[Featured Image via AP Photo/Andre Penner]